Into the Park
Sarah and Scott made Waffles the next morning! Then after a slow start (I didn’t want to leave!) they drove me back to the trail where I’d begin Shenandoah Park. AWOL (My guide book) said the entrance station was a mile in so when I saw a permit station after 5 minutes I was thoroughly confused and grabbed a permit but didn’t fill it out more deposit it. After awhile of walking I realized it had been the only place and I filled it out hoping I’d be able to find a ranger to explain my confusion later on. I know it doesn’t sound like much but for me it was a whole deal and I was upset over it. After a very slow day with not many views I got to the first shelter in the park and also got to use my first bear pole! It looked super difficult. You have to use a heavy metal bar to raise your heavy good bag onto a hook which you can barely see. That night A dude ended up doing it for me because it was very high of the ground and extremely full. I got there right as it was getting dark so I ended up sleeping in the shelter that night.
Blues and Bears
I struggled with the bear pole the next morning and once I hooked my bag it came flying down and hit the ground. Afterwards, I started hiking. Quickly I realized I would have zero views that day and I’d hear the constant rumble of cars from skyline drive almost the entire time. I was starting to get the Virginia Blues and was ready to get out of this park already (on day 2). Early on I also ran into my friends Frosty and Allstar who’d camped with me back near the bear closure area. I’d see them almost every day in the Shenandoah. I did get one big surprise later that day. The Shenandoah has lots of wildlife including many many bears. I was shuffling up the hill when I came to about 30 feet away from one. I yelled at it and clicked my polls together. I didn’t really look at me or run but lumbered a bit off the trail and started eating at a log. I decided it didn’t really care I was there so I walked by it and continued on my way full of excitement. That day I also saw a couple of deer who weren’t shy of people at all. That night as I was getting settled my headlamp died so I hurried to do all the things where light was required fast. The bear pole was not as tall so I managed to do it myself and was pretty proud.
The next day I had the option of going to my first wayside on Skyline drive. I had heard a lot of positive things about these waysides (cheap beer, blackberry milkshakes, hot food for cheap). I’d later discover not all of this was true. I first hit up the camp store off the trail and was able to add some resupply which would get me to Saturday. I bought a beer too there (it’s the stores not the waysides that have single beers for all under 2 dollars!). Then I walked to the wayside to get a hot lunch. The Burger and fries were sub-par and expensive. The shake was also expensive but totally worth it. Afterwards, I headed back to the trail where I had bear encounter two! There was a day hiker couple hanging out on the side trail looking through binoculars at a bear. After they’d had their fill I started heading up the trail with them following me. When I turned onto the AT the bear was 30 feet ahead and going towards the trail. I yelled at it a bit but it didn’t seem to notice so I slowly headed towards it to get a closer look (the couple followed behind). I was 20 feet away from it and all it cared about was eating all the leaves in front of it. I got a great picture as it lumbered across the trail. The excitement fueled my hiking for some time but wore off after I got bearanoid. I walked through some of the burn area from the recent fires and was surprised how much green undergrowth had already returned. When I arrived at the shelter no one was there except for two food bags which meant my friends Frosty and All-star we’re probably already sleeping. I was just finishing up dinner when a thru hiker, Ranger, appeared with his parents and a case of beer. He was bummed and also weirded out that no one was there. I hung for awhile but had to get to sleep because I had a lot of miles planned for the next day.
My longest day yet
I chatted a bit before I left the next morning but then I pushed. I made it to the 900 mile marker (about 5 miles) in two hours, which is really good for me. I also saw another bumbling black blog disappear into the woods (which brings my bear count to 3). Afterwards I slowed down and after lunch I was at snail pace. I could of gone the 19 miles to the shelter but on top of the hill about 20 yards away I saw Lewis Mountain Campgrounds. I saw another hiker there and split a site with him. It was just under a mile from the shelter but it looked like a nice area and with my headlamp dead I didn’t want to risk night hiking or setting up in the dark. We hung out and I got a really goodnight sleep there after my 18 mile day (and a shower in the morning!).
The next day I was going to take it slow and hit up Big Meadows Wayside. I saw a bear cub looking through the ferns at me just as I was walking out of the campsite. I soon ran into my friends Frosty and All star who were heading to the wayside as well. I was able to keep up with them and the conversation kept me moving. The Wayside was in a meadow (obviously) and had a lot more going on inside than the last one. The restaurant’s food was better and the milkshake was too. I even popped in the camp store to buy a beer to drink while the rain came down hard. There was a break in the rain and I started hiking once more. The boys caught up to me and told me another storm was going to hit and it would last hours. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the shelter at this point so when I caught up to them setting up camp near some cliffs I joined them. I set up my tent, ate a cliff bar, threw my bear bag, and then went and hid in my tent waiting for the storm. I was glad I was set up when it came. The wind was super gusty, the rain was coming down hard, and the thunder was dangerously loud. I was just so thankful to be dry and inside my warm sleeping bag that night.
A big meal and a big sunset
The next morning it was thick pea soup fog for the first few hours. I planned to eat at the skyline restaurant for lunch so I took few stops walking fast in order to get there before it closed between meals. I got there in time and was a little to excited when I ordered. Everything on the Menu sounded so good that I had to try a bunch of things. I ended up getting a soup, a salad, a pasta, and I was persuaded to get dessert too. The food tasted fantastic but I did not feel great after the meal though. The sun came out and I felt sick to my stomach. I called my mom and she recommended tums. It helped a load and I was able to scamper up the last hill with an energy burst. On top the sunset had just began and I stayed a bit to watch. There were cliffs so I had a clear view of the sun slowly peaking below the mountains while the surrounding orange and pink hues spread across the mountains. I was Loosing daylight quickly so I walked as fast as I could down to the shelter. When I got there many people offered me help and one dude lent me his headlamp to set up my tent. It was nice and cool for a change so I slept very well for the second night in a row.
Parents = Amazing
I was meeting my parents today. I had a little bit of a rough morning getting through a rocky stretch and I was stressing about being late. However, once I saw them I was a happy gal! We ate a small lunch (my mom didn’t want me getting sick again) and then my mother, the dog, and I started slack packing. I felt light, energized, and so happy to be with my mother! Towards the wayside we ran into a picnic area with trail magic! My mother and I split a burger and then walked the last bit to meet my dad who’d been biking. After a quick break there, my father joined me for 2 more miles of hiking! When we were done for the day we drove to a hotel in Front Royal where I showered and then we went to an amazing hole in the wall Asian restaurant. We got some Chinese and Thai and we demolished everything. It was pretty late after that so I quickly passed out as soon as we returned.
The next day I resupplied from all my moms groceries. It took awhile because there were so many good options and we didn’t end up hitting the trail till nearly noon. I was slack packing with the company of my dad so I wasn’t too worried. Our plan was to do 11 miles while my mother biked and then I would hike out with my pack to the next shelter from there. It was a beautiful day and the terrain was pretty easy. The only thing that was slowing us down was our dog Sita who likes to take the uphills slow. We were down in a valley when I heard some loud noises and told my dad to look to the right. Two bears were in the woods and Sita started barking and ran forward scaring one into a tree. We called her back and hung on watching the bear climb down and run into the woods. It was only 5 minutes later when I saw a bear running across the path away from what sounded like an accident on skyline drive. Sita bolted towards it, barking and disappeared for a few minutes into the woods. I was so relived when she finally returned because I was scared the bear might attack her. After that we kept our eyes open but luckily saw no more bears. We had a few nice views that day and ate at one in the shade. We were running a little late and hoping to text mom when I heard some weird noises coming from the woods. It was my mom imitating a bear; she had decided to walk towards us and had seen a bear as well. It was nice walking the last mile with them and I was pretty sad to see them leave even though I knew I’d see them in two weeks (side note, I’m officially flip flopping to go south from Katadin but more about that later). My dad helped me get on my fully loaded heavy ass pack (I had a lot of food this time) and then I walked into the woods. In only an hour I exited the parks northern boundary and soon after was at the shelter hanging out and cooking. It had been a really good Father’s Day and I was finally onto the last stretch of VA.
Bear count in Shenandoah = 7! (! is for excitement, not factorial)
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